The youth version of “Peony Pavilion” returned to the campus of SUSU

“If you don’t get to the garden, how can you know that spring is as promised…” On the evening of February 25, on the stage of the elegant and timeless Cunjutang of Soochow University, Du Liniang, who was dressed in soft water sleeves, appeared with a gentle and beautiful singing voice, kicking off the prelude to the return of the essence of the youth version of “Peony Pavilion” of Kunqu Opera to the campus of SUSU.

The original cast of the youth version of “Peony Pavilion”. Photo courtesy of Soochow University

Youth version of “Peony Pavilion” stills. Photo courtesy of Soochow University

Youth version of “Peony Pavilion” stills. Photo courtesy of Soochow University

19 years ago, the youth version of “Peony Pavilion” completed its college premiere in Cunjutang, Soochow University, and was unprecedentedly popular among college students. This time, as the “elegant art into campus” in Jiangsu Province and the 17th “Opera Approaching College Students” activity of the CPPCC Jiangsu Province, the original team of the youth version of “Peony Pavilion” returned to SUSU and reunited to perform the Cunju Hall, which also once again ignited the interest and love of young students in Kunqu opera and traditional culture.
It is reported that “Peony Pavilion” tells the love story of everyone’s beautiful Du Liniang and scholar Liu Mengmei beyond life and death. It is a masterpiece of Ming dynasty playwright Tang Xianzu and one of the greatest works in the history of Chinese opera. The youth version of “Peony Pavilion” is a classic brand of Suzhou Kun Opera in Jiangsu Province. It is co-created by cultural opera elites, with the famous writer Mr. Bai Xianyong as the chief producer and artistic director, and the famous Kunqu opera performing artists Wang Shiyu and Zhang Jiqing as the artistic director. The play has won many national awards such as the National Stage Art Excellence Project, and has participated in many influential art festival performances and important national performances such as the Beijing Olympic Games, the Winter Olympics cultural performance, the 60th anniversary celebration performance of the National Day, etc.
The essence of the youth version of “Peony Pavilion” staged in Su University condenses the essence in 3 hours, vividly interpreting the eight-fold drama of dreaming, speech, Taoism, soul departure, judgment, reminiscence, female recollection, and rebirth, perfectly presenting the classic and moving love story between Du Liniang and Liu Mengmei to young audiences. Knowing that the youth version of “Peony Pavilion” returned to Su University to perform, Su University’s children, who were still unabated, lined up to receive tickets, and the grandeur was unprecedented.
It is worth mentioning that upon learning of the news that the youth version of “Peony Pavilion” returned to the Soviet University performance, Bai Xianyong, the chief planner of the youth version of “Peony Pavilion”, specially sent a congratulatory message from the United States. Professor Zhu Donglin of Soochow University read Bai Xianyong’s written speech. Bai Xianyong said that in June 2004, the youth version of “Peony Pavilion” premiered in Cunjutang, which opened the journey of Kunqu opera revival and created a miracle in the history of Kunqu opera. Kunqu opera is a cultural treasure of the Chinese nation, and I hope everyone can protect and carry it forward.
On the evening of the event, Wang Shiyu, a famous Kunqu opera performance artist and director of the youth version of “Peony Pavilion”, also came to the scene and gave a guided tour for the teachers and students of Su University present before the performance began.
It is reported that as early as 1905, the master of qu studies, Wu Mei, taught songwriting with the flute, creating a precedent for art education at SUSU. In 1989, SUSU opened an undergraduate class in Kunqu opera art. In 1991, SU University established the Soochow Qu Society. In 2001, the Suzhou Municipal People’s Government and SUSU jointly established the China Kunqu Opera Research Center. In 2004, the mainland premiere of Bai Xianyong’s youth version of “Peony Pavilion” was held in Suda.
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